Guidance

Environmental permitting guidance: waste incineration

Updated 22 December 2015

Operators and regulators must follow the Environmental Permitting Regulations (England and Wales) 2010, as amended. These set out how the EU directive 2010/75/EU (the Industrial Emissions Directive) applies to England and Wales.

1. Waste incineration and co-incineration: when chapter 4 applies

In general, chapter 4 of the Industrial Emissions Directive applies to all waste incineration and waste co-incineration plants that thermally treat solid or liquid waste, unless an exclusion applies.

Some chapter 4 plants also fall within chapter 2 of the Industrial Emissions Directive depending on their capacity.

You can use the flowcharts to check:

If you need the full definition of waste incineration and waste co-incineration plants, you can see the definitions in article 3 of the Industrial Emissions Directive.

2. Thermal treatments: chapter 4

For chapter 4 of the Industrial Emissions Directive to apply, the waste incineration plant and waste co-incineration plant must be thermally treating a solid or liquid waste or using it as fuel. Whenever a plant incinerates waste the operator must also follow the Waste Framework Directive.

Thermal treatment processes to treat waste include (as shown in the thermal treatment flow chart):

  • pyrolysis (the irreversible decomposition of organic material at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen)
  • gasification (converting organic or fossil fuel based materials into carbon monoxide, hydrogen and carbon dioxide)
  • plasma (converting organic matter into synthetic gas (syngas), electricity, or slag using plasma)

The plant thermally treats waste if the process involves either of the following methods:

  • incineration
  • irreversible molecular change using heat where any of the substances produced are incinerated

If the plant is in this category then it needs to meet the conditions of chapter 4.

2.1 Excluded waste

Certain waste is excluded from chapter 4 by article 42(2) of the Industrial Emissions Directive. Excluded waste is:

  • radioactive waste
  • animal carcasses not for human consumption
  • waste from oil and gas exploration on off-shore installations that are incinerated on board the installations

Exclusions from chapter 4 also apply when treating the following types of biomass:

  • vegetable waste from agriculture and forestry
  • vegetable waste from the food processing industry, if the heat generated is recovered
  • fibrous vegetable waste from virgin pulp production and from paper production from pulp, if it’s co-incinerated at the place of production and the generated heat is recovered
  • cork waste
  • certain wood waste

Plants that only incinerate waste excluded from chapter 4 are excluded from chapter 4 requirements - it doesn’t matter how large the plant’s capacity is.

However, if the plant burns excluded waste along with any other regular waste then the plant will have to follow chapter 4 requirements.

Excluded wood waste

Incineration and co-incineration plants that burn wood waste are only excluded from chapter 4 if the wood waste is:

  • untreated sawdust, wood shavings or wood offcuts
  • wood, particle board and facings - as long as they don’t contain halogenated organic compounds or heavy metals from wood-preservative treatment or coating

Excluded manufacturing waste

Even if halogenated organic compounds or heavy metals aren’t used in the manufacturing process (eg for fibre board), if the wood used in the manufacturing process is already contaminated then the final product may also be contaminated. This means the exclusion may not apply.

The operator is responsible for checking and must be able to show that any incinerated wood waste didn’t come from treated wood.

Wood waste that can’t be excluded

Wood waste doesn’t include paper and card.

Wood wastes from construction or demolition are likely to have been treated and so will be covered by chapter 4 of the Industrial Emissions Directive. Wood waste recovered from transfer stations is equally likely to contain demolition or construction wood waste.

The operator must be able to demonstrate that such wastes do not contain treated wood waste.

2.2 Excluded plants

Some plant types are excluded from chapter 4 even though they thermally treat waste.

Plants excluded from chapter 4 because of their purpose

Some plants may burn small amounts of waste as part of a process that isn’t a waste incineration process. Regulators may consider each case individually, like:

  • melting scrap metal in electric arc furnaces that may involve the combustion of some contaminants but it’s not the main purpose of the activity
  • cleaning paint from jigs - although the paint will be burnt off, the aim of the process is to clean the jig for reuse

Non-technical plants

The definitions of a waste incineration plant or a waste co-incineration plant imply that they have a degree of ‘technical sophistication’.

Regulators may determine that some devices that burn waste may lack the technical sophistication to be defined as an incineration plant or co-incineration plant.

This means that burning waste in these kinds of devices is not covered by the Industrial Emissions Directive.

For example, a device which does nothing more than provide physical containment for what would otherwise be an open bonfire lacks the necessary degree of technical sophistication to fall under that definition.

However small waste oil burners (SWOBs) do fall within the Industrial Emissions Directive definition of waste incineration plant and are therefore not excluded from the scope of chapter 4.

Experimental plants used for research, development and testing

To be excluded, the experimental plant used for research, development or testing must treat less than 50 tonnes of waste per year.

This limit means that the exclusion is likely to only apply to test rigs.

Pyrolysis and gasification plants - when they can be excluded

Pyrolysis and gasification plants are excluded if all of the following apply:

  • they dispose of all their residues and products without incineration (eg by landfill or use as raw materials in other processes)
  • they produce only ‘products’ that are then burned (a product is material that’s no longer waste and has passed an end-of-waste test)
  • the gases from the thermal treatment of waste are purified to an extent that they’re no longer a waste before their incineration and they can’t cause emissions that are higher than those resulting from burning natural gas

Chapter 4 applies to both the thermal treatment process and the incineration process if the pyrolysis or gasification plant produces a gas or residue that are still considered to be a waste and which are then burnt.

When the gas or residue is burned away from the gasification or pyrolysis plant (remote units), chapter 4 will apply both to the plants initially producing, as well as then using, the gas or residues.

3. Waste incinerators and co-incineration plants: when chapter 2 applies

Chapter 2 applies to a waste incineration or waste co-incineration plant if it has a capacity:

  • more than 10 tonnes per day of hazardous waste
  • more than 10 tonnes per day of animal carcasses
  • more than 3 tonnes per hour of non-hazardous waste

Chapter 2 may also apply to some plants that are excluded from chapter 4. For example because they burn gaseous waste or chapter 4 excluded waste, like untreated wood waste.

4. Small waste incineration plants

The Environmental Permitting Regulations define small waste incineration plants (SWIPs) as all waste incineration or waste co-incineration plants with a capacity less than the limits specified in chapter 2 of the Industrial Emissions Directive. That is, it has a processing capacity of:

  • hazardous waste - less than 10 tonnes per day
  • non-hazardous waste - less than 3 tonnes per hour (taken as equivalent to 72 tonnes per day)

Unless excluded, a SWIP needs an environmental permit issued by the local authority. The permit must be issued in line with schedule 13A of the Environmental Permitting Regulations and must reflect the requirements of article 44 of the Industrial Emissions Directive.

Where SWIPs incinerate animal carcasses with a capacity of over 10 tonnes per day, they’ll require a Part A(2) environmental permit from their local authority.

Best available techniques (BAT) only applies to SWIPs in England if they are subject to Part B requirements.

4.1 Small waste oil burners

SWOBs are appliances used to burn waste oil. Waste oil is any mineral, synthetic lubrication or industrial oils that have become unfit for the use for which they were originally intended. For example:

  • combustion engine (eg petrol or diesel) oils and gearbox oils
  • lubricating oils
  • hydraulic oils

Waste oils that haven’t met the end-of-waste criteria for the production and use of processed fuel oil are classed as waste.

SWOBs are considered to be SWIPs as they fall within the scope of the Industrial Emissions Directive definitions of waste incineration and waste co-incineration plants.

As a SWIP they require an environmental permit issued by the local authority. The permit must be issued in line with schedule 13A of the Environmental Permitting Regulations

5. Check which permits are needed

Operators need a Part A(1) or A(2) environmental permit for any plants covered by chapter 2. The permit must be issued by the Environment Agency or local authority (as appropriate) under the Environmental Permitting Regulations.

The permit will require the plant to meet chapter 2 requirements, such as BAT, and chapter 4 requirements (if chapter 4 also applies).

You can also use the chart to help work out which permits are needed and who the regulator is.

5.1 Hazardous waste

Chapter 4 applies to all hazardous waste. The regulator and classification depends on a plant’s waste processing capacity.

For 10 tonnes per day or less:

  • chapter 4 of the Industrial Emissions Directive applies
  • the plant is a SWIP
  • the local authority is the regulator
  • a Chapter 4 permit issued under schedule 13A of the Environmental Permitting Regulations is required

For more than 10 tonnes per day:

  • chapter 2 and chapter 4 of the Industrial Emissions Directive apply
  • the Environment Agency is the regulator
  • a Part A1 permit issued under section 5.1, part A1(a) of schedule 1, part 2 of the Environmental Permitting Regulations is required

5.2 Non-hazardous waste covered by chapter 4

Most non-hazardous waste is covered by chapter 4 of the Industrial Emissions Directive whereas some is excluded. If you process non-hazardous waste where chapter 4 applies, the classification and regulator depends on a plant’s waste processing capacity.

For plants processing non-hazardous waste covered by chapter 4 at 3 tonnes per hour or less:

  • chapter 4 of the Industrial Emissions Directive applies
  • the plant is a SWIP
  • the local authority is the regulator
  • a chapter 4 SWIP permit issued under schedule 13A of the Environmental Permitting Regulations is required

For plants processing non-hazardous waste covered by chapter 4 at more than 3 tonnes per hour:

  • chapter 2 and chapter 4 of the Industrial Emissions Directive apply
  • the Environment Agency is the regulator
  • a Part A1 permit issued under section 5.1, part A1(b) of schedule 1, part 2 of the Environmental Permitting Regulations is required

5.3 Non-hazardous waste excluded from chapter 4

If the plant burns only the wastes excluded from chapter 4 the regulator and classification depends on the plant’s waste processing capacity.

For less than 50kg per hour:

For 50kg to 3 tonnes per hour:

  • the local authority is the regulator
  • a Part B permit under section 5.1, part B(a) of schedule 1, part 2 of the Environmental Permitting Regulations is required

For more than 3 tonnes per hour:

  • chapter 2 but not chapter 4 applies
  • the regulator is the Environment Agency
  • a Part A1 permit under section 5.1, part A1(b) of schedule 1, part 2 of the Environmental Permitting Regulations is required

For processing of animal carcasses only at more than 10 tonnes per day (but less than 3 tonnes per hour):

  • chapter 2 but not chapter 4 of the Industrial Emissions directive applies
  • the regulator is the local authority
  • a Part A2 permit under section 6.8, part A2 of schedule 1, part 2 of the Environmental Permitting Regulations is required

6. Activities not covered by chapter 4 of the Industrial Emissions Directive

Some activities are regulated by the Environmental Permitting Regulations but are either excluded from chapter 4 of the Industrial Emissions Directive, or not covered by the directive at all. These are described under section 5.1, schedule 1, part 2 of the Environmental Permitting Regulations:

  • part A(1)(c) - incinerating any gas compound containing halogens, other than as a secondary effect of burning landfill gas or solid or liquid waste
  • part B(b) - the cremation of human remains
  • part B(a) - the incineration of certain waste in a SWIP with a total capacity of 50kg or more per hour

Part B(a) includes:

  • vegetable waste from agriculture and forestry
  • vegetable waste from the food processing industry, if the heat generated is recovered
  • fibrous vegetable waste from virgin pulp production and from production of paper from pulp, if it’s co-incinerated at the place of production and the heat generated is recovered
  • cork waste
  • wood waste with the exception of wood waste which may contain halogenated organic compounds or heavy metals as a result of treatment with wood preservatives or coatings
  • animal carcasses (capacity under 10 tonnes per day)

7. Use flowcharts to check how the chapters apply

You can use flowcharts to help decide if the chapters apply to the plant.

7.1 Check which permit is required and who the regulator is

Regulators and permits for plants

7.2 Check if the process uses thermal treatment

Work out when chapter 4 applies

7.3 Check if chapter 4 applies to the waste or plant

Work out when heat treatment's involved